Bryan Caplan  

Models of the Model Minority

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Asians have often been called the "model minority" - non-whites who by most measures are better-off and more successful than whites. But if you imagine that no one would complain about a positive stereotype of a minority, you don't know much about leftist academics. A fascinating piece by Miranda McGowan and James Lindgren ("Untangling the Myth of the Model Minority," Northwestern University School of Law Public Law and Legal Theory Papers [2003]) sums up the objections of "Asian critical scholars":

First, Asian critical scholars argue that the model minority stereotype is wrong as a factual matter. Here Asian critical scholars scrutinize data that appear to demonstrate Asian educational, occupational, and economic success... [G]eneralizations about “Asians” as a group are misleading... while the stereotype of Asian Americans as a very well educated, hard working, and fairly well-off minority group may be accurate for some individuals and some Asian national origin groups, it is decidedly wrong for other Asian American national origin groups and Asian immigrants.

Second, Asian critical scholars argue that the reported success of Asian Americans as a model minority has created a backlash against their perceived success... [S]ome Asian critical scholars have argued that this more recent attention to the success of Asian Americans is merely the old fear of the “Yellow Peril” dressed in sheep’s clothing.

Third, Asian critical scholars have argued that the model minority stereotype is also used as a cudgel against other minority groups and therefore entrenches white hegemony. Asian critical scholars argue that other minorities are measured against the model minority stereotype and remonstrated for their comparative educational and economic failures: if Asian Americans can succeed, what’s wrong with Blacks and Latinos?...

Fourth, Asian critical scholars have argued that the purely positive side of the model minority stereotype obscures discrimination against Asian Americans...

McGowan and Lindgren charitably interpret a lot of these complaints to be an empirically-testable hypothesis: People who believe than Asians are hard-working and smart will actually be more hostile to Asians, immigration in general, and all minorities.

In general they find the opposite, with one exception:

People who think that Asian Americans are smart, hardworking, or rich tend to be less likely to think that Asian Americans are discriminated against.


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The author at Sepia Mutiny in a related article titled Attacking the Myth of the Model Minority Myth writes:
    (via Econlog) It’s hard to have been of the Asian persuasion of any stripe on a college campus in the last 10-15 years without hearing at least one campus activist type screaming about the Model Minority problem. Now, simple yokel that I am, I wo... [Tracked on December 9, 2005 7:42 PM]
The author at Right Mind in a related article titled The Model Minority writes:
    I ran across this website today: model minority.I had never heard of Asian-Americans referred to as the... [Tracked on December 23, 2005 8:59 PM]
COMMENTS (18 to date)
daveg writes:

Victimization is awarded much status in our society. As such, Asians are loath to completely give up trying to obtain such a status despite their overall success. Who wouldn't? Nobody wants to miss out on all the associated goodies.

Of course, Jews have achieved the ultimate combination of both successful minority and downtrodden victim. Who can blame the Asians for not wanting the "whole enchilada," if they can get it.

Josh writes:

The "model minority" myth only perpetuates discrimination against Asian Americans, along with other minroties. First it suggests that minorities will always be sub-White American, therefore the ones who the most submissive are the "model." It also assumes that blacks and hispanics should accept any dscirimation they have faced, and that their ideal is to end up like an Asian-American. Tell me, why should there be a "model minority?" Do we hold all none white people to different standards, and in doing so, doesn't the term model minority insinuate the majority (whites) are setting that standard?

Bud1 writes:

There is no instutionalized discrimination anymore. Isolated examples, and discriminatory practices by certain individuals still exist for sure. When an individual or group claims discrimination for a reason for failure, however, it's a lame excuse and should be treated as such.

Randy writes:

In two or three decades, caucasians will be the model minority. I'll tell you how I feel it about it then (if I'm still around).

ed writes:

Actually, as the population of Asians grows, they will increasingly bear the brunt of attempts to achieve "racial balance" at Universities and other places. This is already happening in California, where Asians are the largest group at some elite UC campusses. In fact, I believe whites are actually underrepresented in relation to their proportion of the populations at some campuses.

Of course this is probably not the kind of discrimination that the leftists types object to.

Bud1 writes:

It should also be mentioned that too many young white males are crying about reverse discrimination in college admissions, and workplace diversity initiatives. That's an even more absurd excuse for failure. Too many excuses are accepted by society. Winners focus on results.

anon writes:

The complaint that the model minority label doesn't distinguish between different Asian groups is amusing because it was the PC race hucksters who promoted the non-racial term Asian American to replace Orientals in the first place. All Asians and most Americans do not treat Chinese and Iraqis as the same -- though both are Asian.

The real stereotype is that Far Eastern Orientals -- i.e. North Eastern Asians from Japan, Korea, China, and their overseas offshoots have certain behaviors and successes in common. This is especially true for the high preference for schooling.

Funny, this is exactly the same prejudice held by other Asians towards, say overseas Chinese, in countries like Malaysia or the Philippines where white bias isn't much of an issue.

And let's take it to the limit. Let's assume that the prejudice IS harmful to Asian Americans. So what if it's true???

As an Oriental, I quote Confucius to them: Bite me.

daveg writes:

From John Moores, a University of California Regent who spoke up when he saw something he felt was wrong.

I don't know if white people are making excuses, but I also don't think this should be ignored.


College Capers

By John Moores | Mar 29, 2004
Defying voters, UC, Berkeley is admitting kids with low SAT scores and rejecting high achievers.

When Governor Gray Davis appointed me to the Board of Regents of the University of California in 1999, I recognized the university's responsibility to extend the opportunity for academic achievement to as many capable students as the resources of the nation's premier public university allow. Sadly, today's UC admissions policies are victimizing students--not just those unfairly denied admission but also many with low college entrance exam scores who were admitted and can't compete.

The California electorate voted to stop racial preference in college admission in 1996. Since then UC administrators have been manipulating the admissions system and, I believe, thwarting the law. (Although I have been the board's chairman since 2002, I'm just one vote.) UC, Berkeley, the top school in the UC system, is admitting "underrepresented minorities" with very low SAT scores while rejecting many applicants with high SAT scores.

Prompted by many complaints from parents whose high-scoring children were rejected by Berkeley, I started probing admissions records. I learned that 359 students with combined SAT scores of 1,000 or less were admitted to Berkeley in 2002, accounting for ...

daveg writes:

Here is some more and a link to the entire article. Seems that you can only be concerned with unfairness to Asians.



I learned that 359 students with combined SAT scores of 1,000 or less were admitted to Berkeley in 2002, accounting for 3% of the 10,905 students admitted that year. (The national SAT average is about 1,000.) Of those 359 students, 231 were from underrepresented minorities--meaning blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. Only 19 of the low scorers were white. Some 1,421 Californians with SAT scores above 1,400 applying to the same departments at Berkeley were not admitted. Of those, 662 were Asian-American, while 62 were from the underrepresented minorities.

How did the university get away with discriminating so blatantly against Asians? Through an admissions policy with the vague term "comprehensive review." The policy includes factors like disabilities, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, disadvantaged social or educational environment, difficult personal and family situations. This means that a student from a poor background whose parents didn't go to college is given preference over a kid raised by middle-class, educated parents--all other things being equal.


Bud1 writes:

We're all fortunate that there are so many higher education facilities in our country and around the globe.

daveg writes:

How would you like to have been one of te 62 underepresented minorities to get a 1400 SAT and be rejected by Berkeley that year! They must have shaken their head in disbelief when opening the rejection letter - "What do I have to do!"

The time is getting close for the birth for the N double-A double-P. The National Association for the Advancement of Pale People.

Bud1 writes:

I would be frustrated as I'm sure these applicants were, but I wouldn't let that frustrated feeling last too long. I have a nephew who did very well at a highly regarded university but is having trouble getting into medical school. I frequently hear "If only I were (insert gender/race of your choosing here)...I'd get in easily"

Now I'm not nearly as bright a guy as this kid is, but I'm a lifelong successful salesman and understand that NO only means not yet. If he could just get it through his head that it's him, not the colleges, that is holding him back he'd find a way. We all encounter roadblocks. Some of us stop and whine, others find a way.

daveg writes:

I am not really serious about the NAAPP. However, I would like to see other ethinic organizations "go away", but that is just me. I don't particularly care for "ethnic" organizing.

With regard to affirmative action, I think one needs to function at two levels: personal and political. On a personel level I agree that one should just focus on doing their best and I will advise my kids accordingly. People do use affirmative action as an excuse for their own failures. Everyone needs to focus on what you can and can't change.

Poltically, however, I think it is reasonable to vote and act in ways that eliminate this type of gross manipulation of the system. But if a member of the UC board of regents feels powerless we have a long way to go...

Rufus Sarsaparilla writes:

Bud: "No" means, "not yet," huh? I'm sure you've had a lot of success being pushy and rude, but I wouldn't be proud of it.

Bud1 writes:

Rufus, I think NO just means that there hasn't been enough value conveyed to result in a yes. It doesn't necessarily mean being pushy. It might mean you need to get creative or more compelling. Whether you're a salesperson, a college applicant, or merely debating, my point is that too many people quit, or complain about how the contest was unfair. Dave, I agree that many of these organizations are just collections of individuals who are scared to persevere on their own so they get together and gripe about how they've been mistreated.

Rufus Sarsaparilla writes:

Well said, Bud. I kind of took your comment out of context, thinking of salesmen who have frequently irritated me. I agree that people should be more persistent in other avenues, like getting in to a college of their choice.

As for telemarketers and people who come to my door that don't understand "no, thank you," I loved this sentiment from the comic strip character Arlo: "What kind of economy has to survive by bugging people to death?!"

Steve Sailer writes:

East Asian American men have a genuine and serious complaint: they call it the "dating disparity." White and black women are a lot less likely to marry Asian men than white and black men are to marry Asian women. This leaves a lot of lonely Asian American bachelors.

For the numbers, see


for the inside view.

Amit writes:

I agree with Steve...

There might be a potential problem here too... lonely Asian men....

poor things.. wish I could help them..

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